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Target 3 Special Report: "Journey of Hope" - Part Two

Tonight we conclude our two-part target three special report: "Journey of Hope."<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; "When I was a prisoner, I prayed every evening &amp; every morning."&nbsp; "What did you pray for?" "To get home again. And for the Lord to help my people at home. And all those poor, poor guys around me."<br>
Tonight we conclude our two-part Target Three Special Report: "Journey of Hope."
    "When I was a prisoner, I prayed every evening & every morning."  "What did you pray for?" "To get home again. And for the Lord to help my people at home. And all those poor, poor guys around me."
    The prisoners were loaded onto Russian trains -- 100 to a boxcar.
   "You lay like that & the guy behind me slide up behind me. I mean, like sardines. You can't do - I can't. I can't do it. And most people can't."
    After about a month in those cramped, awful conditions ... they arrived in a prison camp in Siberia.  Hohfeld says when the train arrived, he was frail -- 115 pounds.
    "I had left & right they had to help me lift up. And it took me a long, long time to get back on my feet. But even on this unbelievable situation, I never ever thought, 'Hey, I'll never get home.' I never did. I never totally gave up hope."
   There was little food: Saurkraut soup & Russian rye bread. That first winter, Hohfeld says more than 300 men died.
   "They wanted to break you down where your conscience is not there anymore."
    Prisoners were forced to dig graves in the frozen ground ... and bury the dead.
   "They were always these guys with guns standing there. 'Bystryee, bystryee, bystryee,' -- that means 'schneller, schneller, schneller.'  Biestra -- it means faster ... They put this guy in & he wouldn't fit in there ...They broke his legs, flipped him over, & put dirt on him. This is almost unbelievable. I know. People want ... Some people don't believe it's possible. Especially the young ones. But I want you to know. I'm not complaining. I'm not complaining. I know how that all started. But I also know one thing. To really explain what was going on, is hard to do. This wooden things we were laying on - we didn't have a blanket, or nothing like that. The only thing we had plenty of were body lice & bugs. What they call bed bugs. They were all in this wood. They loved me."
    Hohfeld says there were occasional bright spots ...kind gestures from his captors.
    "The people who go to war who do all the shooting, & kill -- no matter where they come from -- at one time of their lives, they will realize this guy is just the same as I.  He is just put into situation ... Where he can't do anything else."
    One prison camp moment is forever etched in Hohfeld's heart: When he went to visit a dying friend:
    "You never see him - even as a prisoner - without a little bit of a smile on his face. And ... We went to see him, he's laying in that thing there, i think they even had a pillow. But nothing else good, you know. And he wanted to go outside. It was a beautiful day. Not another cloud - not too warm - just right. The sunflowers were blooming on the other side of the hill -- it was early in the day -- all this beauty didn't make any impression on me or all the men I was with ... He wanted to go outside & look at this beautiful sky. And you know, he was so weak ... We dragged him out one on each side. And out there he looked at this beautiful sky & the teardrops were running down his eyes, but he was smiling. He was smiling. And then we took him back in, & the next day, after about 4:00, I went there again, & he wasn't there anymore. He was already buried."
    Prisoners were occasionally allowed to write letters home -- many times with a 24- word limit.  Hohfeld's mother saved all his letters.
     Then, in September of '49, after more than four years in prison ... Hohfeld and the other German prisoners were given showers and clean clothes -- and finally got to go home. On September 29th, Hohfeld reunited with his mother and sister in Germany.
    "Oh my goodness gracious, we never stopped hugging."
    Hohfeld hadn't seen his family in seven years.  One of his brothers had died in the war ... The other was wounded.     
    Hohfeld fell in love with a woman named Margarete.  They married in 1952, and decided to move to America.  Margarete's grandfather had a sister -- Mrs. J.J. Lane, who spoke highly of a town in Texas called Wichita Falls.
   "We got rid of everything we had, packed our suitcases, & went to America."
    Leaving their homeland for a strange place called Texas with nothing but what they could carry ... but very happy about it.....
   "You have to live it to know it."
     Hohfeld worked for Ebner Brothers packing company for 17 years.  In 1971, his wife fulfilled a dream when she opened Margie's Sweet Shop. 
    "These people here treated us good all the time. Right from the beginning. Especially the people in this type of the world. Frankly, I don't think ever anybody held it against us for being in the German army. From the first day. Never."
    But *he* still thinks about it ...
   "It's an awful thing we will never live down. It will stick with us forever."
    Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Hohfeld is haunted by memories.
    "That's when those things come back to you.  But you know, you have to bury them sometimes."
    And ultimately, Hohfeld still has hope ... like he's always had.
    "These are a lot of people here that know ... They'd rather have peace. They want to raise their family, but ... They pray just like I do, just like I do, that the day will come where they don't have this kind of stuff anymore. And my kids & my grandkids - I want them to know I love em more than anything. And this things which happened -- I didn't have anything to do with it. It's just that I was there. I had things I had to do & I not -- I have not the feeling I did something really bad. I didn't ever even shoot at soldiers. I shot at airplanes. Have i shot somebody down or not? I don't know. I don't know. And I never will know, & that's just the way it is. I love em, I hope it never happens to them. Or their kids."
    Walter just celebrated his 90th birthday ...
    He told us he was a little nervous about sharing his story, because he's always afraid someone will hold it against him ... But he says the people of Texoma have always been very open and accepting of him.

**To watch Part One, click here.**
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